Stephen Keshi had never begun talks with Orlando Pirates but would certainly have been interested in the Bucs coaching job had it become available‚ his agent Tim Sukazi said on Wednesday.
Sukazi said that Keshi‚ the legendary Nigerian captain‚ defender and coach who died in the early hours of Wednesday morning aged 54 from an apparent heart attack‚ was intent on finding a job in South Africa’s Premier Soccer League.
Keshi’s wife of 30 years‚ Kate‚ had died after a prolonged fight with cancer in December‚ and the coach viewed South Africa as a change of scenery and his next challenge.
Keshi signed with Sukazi’s agency‚ Quality Talent (QT) Sports‚ in May‚ sparking speculation he was bound for the PSL.
Sukazi said reports linking Keshi to Pirates as their next coach were pure speculation‚ but that if Bucs had opted not to renew current coach Eric Tinkler’s expiring contract‚ Keshi would have certainly been interested on the job.
“Before I left for Monaco on business last Thursday I made it clear that the Pirates rumours‚ which were I think speculated by the Nigerian media‚ were untrue. It was far from the truth‚” Sukazi said.
“Now‚ if you asked me if I thought Stephen would have been interested in coaching Orlando Pirates then my answer would have been: ‘Yes of course’.
“Pirates was a club which would have suited his profile. But we all know Pirates had not come out to say they had a vacancy.
“I think it would have been unfair to the current Pirates coach to initiate things like these. And Stephen also realised that.
“But of course we have got clever journalists who look for opportunities that might fit a guy of his calibre. And they realised that maybe Pirates would have been a destination‚ and started spreading these rumours.
“But yes he would have been interested. He was a coach of great stature and Pirates are a club of great stature so it would have been like for like.”
Keshi‚ popularly nicknamed “Big Boss”‚ was a mountain of a man who had a steely stare that could cower even the notoriously treacherous Nigerian football media in press conferences.
He became popular with South Africans after winning the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in this country in 2013 with a young Nigeria squad.
He expressed respect for the football then-Bafana coach Gordon Igesund had instilled in Bafana Bafana‚ though he also took delight in dismantling Igesund’s team 3-1 at the 2014 African Nations Championship (Chan) in Cape Town.
Keshi had his verbal sparring matches with current Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba as Nigeria were grouped with South Africa in the qualifiers for the 2015 Afcon.
But Mashaba had the last laugh as SA qualified for the finals in Equatorial Guinea at the expense of arch-nemesis the Super Eagles.
A coach of the stature of Keshi – who also had taken charge of Togo and Mali – would have been a fascinating addition to the PSL.
“He was well acquainted with our game‚ which he watched a lot. And he thought that coming to SA would be a change of scenery for him‚” Sukazi said.
“He had lost his wife in December last year‚ and he needed a change and a new challenge. Coming to South Africa would have provided that.
“In the last four to five weeks we became well acquainted with each other. And we had so much confidence that our plan of bringing Stephen to SA was going to be realised.
“We had been in regular contact. The last of which was before I left for Monaco on Thursday‚ when we spoke for about 30 minutes.
“I was flying back [on Tuesday] night and was due to speak to him again when I arrived.
“Little did I know that today [Wednesday] would come and he wouldn’t be there.”
Sukazi said‚ while his contact with Keshi had only ever been by phone‚ his impression of the coach was of a caring person.
“I hadn’t met him in person. He came across as a very polite person on the phone. Surprisingly to me each day whenever we called‚ before starting our conversation‚ he would always start by asking about the family‚” Sukazi said.
“When it happened for the first time I thought that maybe people do it for the good of it. But when he did it on every call it made me realise the kind of person behind it.
“I think he was a very sincere person‚ very passionate about the game‚ who so much believed about his ability as a coach and as such was very confident about it.
“He was extremely calm‚ even in the face of these rumours. Some coaches would come storming because of that‚ either through excitement or anxiety. Stephen did none of the above.
“We would start talking sense to each other and that made life so much easier‚ because we could put great plans together.
“But then of course our great plans have now become overshadowed by those of God.”
Source: Times Live